The 2016-2017 North Bergen (NJ) High School Mock Trial Team recently participated in this year’s Vincent J. Apruzzese Mock Trial Competition. The competition, sponsored by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation, is open to all New Jersey high schools and draws teams from around the state. Mitchell L. Pascual and Michael D. Witt volunteered to serve as attorney-coaches for North Bergen High School, which was participating in the competition for the first time ever.
In the competition, the students present an entire fictional trial, serving as the case’s attorneys, witnesses and jurors; actual judges and attorneys preside over the trials and determine which team is victorious. The students are responsible for every aspect of the case, from writing and delivering opening statements and closing arguments to conducting direct and cross-examinations of the witnesses.
Despite their lack of experience, the North Bergen squad was equal to the task and gamely put on their case, but unfortunately did not advance past the first round. Nevertheless, the competitive spirit and legal acumen that they displayed impressed both their coaches and the judges alike.
“These kids deserve all the credit in the world,” Michael Witt said. “They took on a task that was brand new to all of them and gave 100% effort during hours and hours of preparation and practice, all on their own free time. They walked into a real courthouse with real judges and gave it a heck of a run, despite never having been there before.”
Mitchell Pascual agreed: "Candidly, I saw performances out of our students that I would have expected from first-year associates. They really came through with their best effort.” Witt and Pascual were also encouraged by the Juniors and underclassmen on the team already talking about next year’s competition. “We’ll be back,” Witt said. “And we’ll be ready.”